A Modern Day Parable on Gender Based Violence
Lydia Mulkey
July 20, 2021

Last week I was away on study leave in order to attend the General Synod of the United Church of Christ. This is the national gathering of the church, like the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I got a great deal out of this gathering. I saw the church pass resolutions on a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, naming the apartheid taking place. I observed the passing of a resolution naming the gender pay gap and presence of sexual harassment in our churches and calling on our churches to address gender inequities. I attended a workshop called “Serving God or Serving Money” that challenged the way I think about stewardship. I learned about opportunities for continued study and connection. I observed the Church at work and joined the Church at worship.

Of course, our gathering this year was virtual. I give thanks for that foresight as a colleague, though fully vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19 during the time we would have been together in one place. What a strange blessing to gather virtually. What a strange blessing over this last year. Not the blessing we asked for, but the one we got.

I was particularly touched by the Call to Worship of the closing service. It asked, “Is there a gathering without going?” It evoked so much in me as I thought over these last 16 months. I thought I would share it with you. If you would like to experience the call to worship as it was presented, you can watch the full service or find this portion of the service at 37:17 in this video. You can also read it here. May it be a blessing to you as you continue to digest the griefs, lessons, and strange blessings of the pandemic.

How can I call out?
Our very breath has betrayed us,
Endangering those we love,
Necessitating distance,
Masks over lips.
Is there a call that would rise without words?

You are as near as our breath. No, you are nearer!
You hold us closer than our own trepidation when we fear to breathe the air.
You meet us here, where we are You meet us here

How can we gather?
Our fellowship has let illness spread.
For survival, we moved apart.
Out of love, we have isolated,
Distance between friends
Is there a gathering without going?

*breathe: 4 beats to get ready, 4 to inhale, 4 to hold, 4 to exhale

There is when we are already gathered by you God.
And we declare we are gathered in you!
Together, in this distance you hold us closer than perhaps we have ever been.
You meet us here, where we are.
You meet us here.
We are already gathered in you God.
You meet the weary chaplains who have held hands through countless latex gloves.
Our mourning and still resilient Marshallese communities, counting and mourning their loved ones who have died.
Our siblings with disabilities wondering if crisis medical care rationing will become a death sentence for their community.

You meet us here.
We are already gathered in you God.

You meet those who rise up in the streets still with masks and extra care because justice cannot wait.
You meet our Native elders who paint the names of children on tear-stained rocks and erect teepees as signs of hope for the world.
You meet the Asian and Pacific Islander communities as hate crimes against them surge.
You meet us here.
We are already gathered in you God.

You meet our church elders isolated in homes by vulnerability this year.
You meet our children caught between online learning and exhausted parents and caretakers doing their best to keep them safe and learning.
You meet those who are working everyday and need a break and those who have lost everything because this economic system paused with no safety net.
You meet us here.
We are already gathered in you God.

You will be worshiped most Holy God, who so loves us.
You embody your love in intimate presence that is known, fully, and beautifully.
And in everything, God, the United Church of Christ is here,
Because everyone of its members is gathered and hemmed in you.
And as siblings, people have cared for one another, cried with one another, laughed with one another and continued to declare the Good News of your Love and Justice in the world so you will be praised today Creator God!
You meet us here.
We are already gathered in you, God.

Let all who have any measure of breath come and worship God!
Let the rocks and creation cry out in Praise!
The Living God is the embodiment of justice and love, beauty and peace
And God has not forsaken us!
You meet us here.

We are already gathered in you God!
*breathe: 4 beats to get ready, 4 to inhale, 4 to hold, 4 to exhale